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An open letter to Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala de Silva

Geneva. WHO HQ. High level consultation on the financial crisis and global health. Mr. Nimal Siripala de Silva, Minister of Health of Sri Lanka. Special conference before the opening of the 124th session of the Executive Board (EB).

Photo courtesy WHO

Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva MP
Leader of the Opposition
Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha
Colombo 7.

My dear Honorable Sir,

I thought of writing to you, due to the upcoming general election and the choices that face the SLFP in that context. My interest stems from my own personal association with the Party and is also motivated by my late father having been a founding member and Central Committee member of the SLFP in the 1950s, which fact seem to have been known to President Sirisena, who as the then General Secretary called and condoled with me on his demise last year.  However, I hasten to add that, though I previously served as Presidential Spokesman and currently as the Chairman of the Resettlement Authority, that the views expressed in this letter are strictly my own.

Firstly let me belatedly express my congratulations to you on the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution by a near unanimous vote, an achievement for which the SLFP should also take some credit, since it is after all the single largest party in Parliament. The greatest credit of course goes to President Sirisena, whose patient diplomacy crafted the compromises necessary to achieve a consensus and also showed that the SLFP and the UNP can work together for the greater good of the nation. It portends well for a possible national government after the general elections.

I must say though, I was rather surprised at some of the objections that were raised by the learned Professor G.L. Peiris on behalf of the SLFP earlier on, it was a pity he was unable to be as focused or articulate when the abominable 18th amendment was passed in essentially half a day, without a semblance of a debate. Perhaps in that avatar he believed that ignorance was bliss.

I must also congratulate you, my dear Nimal, on keeping your job as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. It was only a few weeks ago, that Dinesh Gunawardena was making a valiant bid to oust you and occupy your seat and it struck me then, that a party (the MEP) with only himself elected to Parliament and his brother appointed through the national list, trying to be opposition leader was rather thick. It took the TNA, to remind the Speaker that in the event that the UPFA was unable to lead the opposition, that they were the third largest party in Parliament. Like much of the other non issues and hot air raised by die hard Mahinda supporters in Parliament, this too came to nothing. Except perhaps to give Dinesh some unexpected but nonetheless for him a welcome lime light before the general elections.

However, the real reason I wanted to write to you is to address the issues of the so called, “bring back Mahinda campaign” which has been launched by some of the erstwhile minor partners of the SLFP in the UPFA. Firstly of course their campaign seems to losing steam despite all the money thrown at it. Bussing the same rent a crowd around the country is expensive. But clearly the bring back Mahinda campaign is not short of funds and is unlikely to ever be so. But it runs against the majority mood in the country and the people’s mandate as well as some serious policy and political problems.

  1. Firstly, for Mahinda apologists who accuse the current national government of not having a parliamentary mandate, though their presidential campaign was the winner, it is mind boggling that the loser in the presidential election now wants to use the back door as it were to grab whatever residue power he can hold onto through the SLFP party structure. This despite the SLFP quite correctly opting to move with the winning President Sirisena into the future than to retreat with the losing Mahinda into the past.
  1. It is even more surprising that the few SLFP colleagues who are in the Mahinda camp, do not realize that the Maithripala Sirisena presidential campaign was very much about ending the misrule of the Rajapakse’s and with the voters having delivered their verdict, their voice and mandate should be respected. I am glad that President Sirisena was very public that he would not let down the 6.2 million Sri Lankans who voted for him.
  1. As a campaign activist and voter for President Sirisena, I must say I was appalled at the low down personal and vitriolic campaign that was run by Mahinda Rajapakse in his loosing reelection bid, where President Sirisena was called everything from a Diaspora lackey to a foreign stooge. Now nowhere do I see or hear any expression of regret, remorse or a recanting of these claims by Mahinda Rajapakse. Surely this must be a first step.
  1. I am also rather surprised at this call to not investigate allegations of corruption and misrule of the Rajapakse Administration, which was made a campaign issue, so that a public mandate has even been received for this. The allegations are rather long and voluminous and need no mention here. But voters have not forgotten and there needs to be accountability for the world’s most expensive highways per kilometer, the missing vehicles from the presidential secretariat, the sovereignty selling giveaway terms of the port city project, a long list of unsolicited projects approved without tender processes, floating armories and unlicensed weapons to private parties, massive corruption at Sri Lankan Airlines, casinos made strategic enterprises, using TRC funds for the election campaign to name just a few, of a very long list.
  1. Regarding the local councils, which have finished their term of office, I would not fight to be extending their term. This unwillingness to retire or give up office is a distressing Rajapakse trait and there is no need to pass on that toxic political virus to local government. The SLFP and indeed all local authorities can and must be prepared to contest regular elections and get a public mandate to hold office.
  1. My humble suggestion by the way, is for the SLFP to dump the pro Mahinda UPFA allies for the general elections and run an SLFP slate of candidates. Frankly more SLFPers will get elected that way and SLFP votes would not be going towards electing those stuck in the past.

I hope you will consider the above ideas and suggestions in the formulation of SLFP policies going forward. Please accept my best wishes for the same.

Best regards,

Harim Peiris